Thursday, 31 March 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: March 31, 1991

Sometimes a band is just bubbling along, minding its own business, when one of their songs explodes and changes everything for them. That happened 25 years ago this week when an indie rock group became the biggest band in the world almost overnight.

That's Michael Stipe in the spotlight

OK, it hadn't really been overnight, but thanks to that huge single, the band were suddenly selling 10 times as many records, winning MTV Video Music Awards and, later in the decade, selling out arenas. Not bad for the alternative radio favourites who'd only ever had one hit in Australia up until that point.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 31, 1991

The biggest single this week in 1991 was still "Sucker DJ" by Dimples D, which held down the top spot for its second and final week.


Off The Chart
Number 87 "Turn It Up" by Technotronic featuring Melissa & Einstein
Peak: number 87
What were they thinking? After a flawless run of singles, the Belgian dance act rightfully bombed out with this track featuring brand new vocalists. They'd course correct quickly enough.


Single Of The Week
"I Had You In Mind" by Mondo Rock
Peak: number 94
Poor Mondo Rock, things really were getting pretty dire for the band who'd once been regulars in the upper reaches of both the singles and albums charts. "I Had You In Mind" became the band's second single in a row to peak in the 90s despite not being that bad a song, just somewhat forgettable. Unsurprisingly, once a third single from Why Fight It? missed the top 100 completely, singer Ross Wilson broke up the band for a fourth time in its history. Except for the odd short-lived reunion in the past decade, this split stuck and Mondo Rock was no more.




Breaker
"Highwire" by The Rolling Stones
Peak: number 54
In last week's 30 Years Ago... flashback, we saw the arrival of future top 10 hit "Harlem Shuffle", the lead single from The Rolling Stones' 1986 album, Dirty Work. Five years later, "Highwire", one of two new studio tracks included on live album Flashpoint, couldn't even cross the threshold into the top 50. Two things were at play here:
1) The Stones were transitioning from a band that had hit songs to a touring act who put out new music every so often
2) "Highwire" was an uncharacteristically political song from the band in which they expressed their opinion on the events that had led to that year's Gulf War.
And so, given "Highwire" was hardly "Start Me Up", number 54 is about as good as could be hoped for.




New Entries
Number 49 "Losing My Religion" by R.E.M.
Peak: number 11
While the hit-making days of one of the world's biggest rock acts of the '60s, '70s and '80s were over, one of the most successful bands of the '90s were just coming into their own. R.E.M. had been releasing music since 1981, and had slowly but surely built a loyal indie rock-loving audience. 
It took until their fifth album, Document, for them to land their first US top 10 hit with "The One I Love" - a chart feat they repeated with "Stand", a single from their major label debut, Green. In Australia, another track from Green, "Orange Crush", had provided R.E.M with their only top 50 appearance to date. Suffice it to say, they were hardly rivalling U2 at this point.
After a year off to recover from the Green tour, R.E.M. recorded their follow-up, Out Of Time, in the second half of 1990 and launched it early in 1991 with "Losing My Religion". Written around a mandolin riff composed by guitarist Peter Buck, the song is a tale of unrequited and obsessive love, compared by singer Michael Stipe to The Police's "Every Breath You Take".
As catchy as the song was, the track's music video played a huge part in helping "Losing My Religion" become the band's biggest Australian and US hit up until that point. Directed by Tarsem Singh, the arty clip was laden with religious imagery - and even featured Michael lip syncing to the track, something he wasn't generally a fan of doing. Unlike anything else produced at the time, it was the winner of that year's MTV VMA for Video Of The Year as well as five other categories.
As a result of all the attention, Out Of Time gave the band their first number 1 album in the US and the UK, and has sold over 18 million copies. We'd be seeing a lot of them on the ARIA chart from now on...




Number 34 "The Total Mix" by Black Box
Peak: number 24
And so, with four singles under their belt, Italo house pioneers Black Box released their inevitable mega mix - featuring only three of their chart hits on the 7" edit. Yes, "Fantasy" wasn't exactly the same pace as "Ride On Time", "I Don't Know Anybody Else" and "Everybody Everybody", but given the Earth Wind & Fire cover was their second biggest single, it'd would've been good to have worked it into the main version of "The Total Mix" somehow, although it did appear on the extended version. As we'll see in coming weeks, the producers behind "The Grease Megamix" didn't let tempo changes get in their way, so "Fantasy" could've had more of a presence here. As these kinds of singles went, "The Total Mix" wasn't bad in a haphazard sort of way. If you didn't own any of the songs already, it was a cheap way to add all three to your collection (kind of), but the mix lacked the finesse of Technotronic's "Megamix" - still the gold standard.




Next week: two big stars, two often over-looked hits. An Australian legend and American diva debuted on the top 50 with singles that you don't hear much about anymore, despite the former being an ARIA top 10 hit and the latter being a US number 1.


Back to: Mar 24, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 7, 1991


Wednesday, 30 March 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: March 30, 1986

It wasn't that unusual for a song that reached number 1 in Australia during the 1980s not to do so well in the US. But, it was rare when it was a single released by an American artist that topped our chart but did little back at home. Nevertheless, that's exactly what happened to one of the new entries on the ARIA singles chart this week in 1986.

Diana had to console herself with reaching number 1 in Australia and the UK

Even more unusual: the female singer in question was no stranger to the number 1 spot on the Billboard chart, having visited there six times as a solo artist and another dozen times as a member of arguably the biggest girl group of all time.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 30, 1986

The number 1 single in Australia 30 years ago this week was still "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going" - and, in fact, Billy Ocean would stay at the top until Diana Ross knocked him off.


Off The Chart
Number 97 "I'm Not The One / Heartbeat City" by The Cars
Peak: number 75
A remixed version of a five-year-old track from 1981's Shake It Up and the title track from The Cars' previous studio album received equal billing on this latest single promoting Greatest Hits

Number 95 "Unchained Melody" by Leo Sayer
Peak: number 77
Having never heard this version before, I was pleasantly surprised - not because I liked it, but because it was at least different to all the other turgid renditions. Seems to have been a stand-alone single release for Leo.

Number 94 "In A Lifetime" by Clannad
Peak: number 72
No doubt the presence of U2's Bono on guest vocals helped this single from the Irish family group's eighth studio album, Macalla, become their first - and only - ARIA top 100 appearance.


New Entries
Number 37 "Talk To Me" by Stevie Nicks
Peak: number 22
Released as the first single from Rock A Little in the US, "Talk To Me" quickly followed "I Can't Wait" in Australia - and for me, we got the order right. Whereas "I Can't Wait" was electrifying and exciting, I've always found "Talk To Me" to be sluggish and dull by comparison. Even so, Stevie gives another committed performance in the music video, clearly aided by whatever it was she'd taken during the "I Can't Wait" video shoot. This is the last we'd see of Stevie so high on the chart (at least, as a solo artist) until 1989's "Rooms On Fire", which peaked just one place lower than "Talk To Me".




Number 35 "Kyrie" by Mr Mister
Peak: number 11
Like Stevie Nicks, Mr Mister had one song I loved and one song I thought was only OK in 1986 - but the American band got theirs the other way round. Following up the top 5 smash "Broken Wings" (the one I found a bit snooze-inducing) was the anthemic "Kyrie". Not that many of us realised it as we say along at the tops of our voices, but the lyric "Kyrie eleison" is Greek for "Lord, have mercy" and the song is essentially a prayer. In the US, "Kyrie" matched "Broken Wings" and reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, while in Australia, it fell just short of giving the band a second top 10 hit. 
Mr Mister actually had a third top 10 hit in the US, but as we'll see in the next few months, "Is It Love" didn't do so well locally, leaving the band as two-hit wonders. Fun anecdote: the video for "Kyrie" was shot while the band was on tour in Florida, but the British director wasn't aware he needed a signed release from anyone whose face was shown - meaning a production assistant had to be dispatched to get the old guys seen around the 2:20 mark to OK their inclusion in the clip. Luckily, they were locals who frequented the beach and were easy to locate.




Number 33 "Chain Reaction" by Diana Ross
Peak: number 1
From a song that made number 1 in the US, we come now to a song that topped the Australian and UK chart but was a flop in Diana Ross's home country of America. Yep, the unstoppable "Chain Reaction", which spent 10 weeks in the ARIA top 3 (including three at number 1), originally peaked at number 95 in the US before improving slightly to number 66 when a not-very-remixed-at-all remix was released later in 1986.
In Australia, it was a dramatic turn around following the disappointing peak of Diana's previous single, "Eaten Alive". "Chain Reaction' was her biggest hit of any kind since "All Of You" with Julio Iglesias (number 19 in mid-1984) and her first solo top 20 appearance since 1981's "Why Do Fools Fall In Love". By reaching number 1, the single became her first chart-topper since "Endless Love" and first solo number 1 since "Upside Down" in 1980.
The brains behind her chart comeback were the brothers Gibb, with Barry, Maurice and Robin gifting Diana with a ready-made number 1 hit just as they had earlier in the decade for Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton with "Islands In The Stream" and Barbra Streisand with "Woman In Love", and almost did for Dionne Warwick with "Heartbreaker", which stalled at number 2.
With its bouncy Motown-inspired beat, unmistakable backing vocals (from the Bee Gees themselves) and a video featuring no less than seven increasingly spangly costume changes, "Chain Reaction" had hit written all over it - so I'm not sure what America's problem with the song was. Their loss.




Number 29 "Kiss The Dirt (Falling Down The Mountain)" by INXS
Peak: number 15
Our final new entry comes from an Australian band whose only local number 1 single ("Original Sin") had actually managed to reach the American chart in 1984. Since then, things had snowballed and this week in 1986, INXS were sitting at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 with their breakthrough US hit, "What You Need". Meanwhile in Australia, the song that probably should've been released as the follow-up to "What You Need" jumped into the ARIA top 30. 
"Kiss The Dirt..." improved slightly on the chart peak of "This Time", but I can't help but think it would've been an even bigger record had it been the second track lifted from Listen Like Thieves, which had by this point spent almost half a year on the albums chart. Belated as it may have been, the release did at least come with a decent music video - and one that I always picture when I think of mid-'80s INXS. The iconically Australian clip was filmed at two locations in South Australia - the salt lake scenes were filmed on Lake Hart, while the red earth scenes were shot up the highway at Moon Plains, Coober Pedy. And, apparently, it was all done in a day, with the band flying in from and back to America for the shoot.




Next week: a song later covered by Tom Jones, a cover of a song made famous by Elvis Presley and a spoken word track by an Oscar-winning actor.


Back to: Mar 23, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Apr 6, 1986


Thursday, 24 March 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: March 24, 1991

Nearly every lead singer of a group thinks they've got what it takes to be a solo star - and many that try it have great success on their own. Plenty don't.

Not even Susanna's bedroom eyes could help her solo career

Twenty-five years ago this week, the solo debut of a singer from one of the most popular bands of the past five years turned out less than spectacularly. Of course, she wasn't technically a lead singer, but let's not let semantics get in the way, shall we?

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 24, 1991

Meanwhile, at the top of the ARIA singles chart this week in 1991, one pop/rap song made way for another. "Sucker DJ" by Dimples DJ took over at number 1 from "Do The Bartman" for the first week in a two-week run.


Off The Chart
Number 93 "Love Or Something" by Bob Geldof
Peak: number 74
Although this was nowhere near as annoying as "The Great Song Of Indifference", Australia's interest in solo material from Bob Geldof faded as quickly as it had emerged.

Number 76 "Mother Universe" by The Soup Dragons
Peak: number 67
Not even an "I'm Free"-style remix could turn this previous single into a hit for the Scottish band, who never saw the inside of the top 100 again.

Number 73 "My Definition Of A Boombastic Jazz Style" by Dream Warriors
Peak: number 65
Like its predecessor, this single by the Canadian duo peaked way too low. The main hook is sampled from Quincy Jones's "Soul Bossa Nova", later used in the Austin Powers film series.


Breakers
"Crazy" by The Boys
Peak: number 65
With New Edition having splintered off into various side-projects over the past few years, there was a gap in the market for another super-young African-American boy band - and the four Abdulsamad brothers fit the bill perfectly. Khiry, Hakim, Tajh and Bilal had been aged between nine and 14 when their debut album, Messages From The Boys, was released in late 1988. That LP had featured three LA Reid & Babyface productions, including US top 20 single "Dial My Heart"
Now three years older, the brothers were writing and producing their own records, except for this lead single from second album The Boys, which was produced and co-written by LaFace B-team Daryl Simmons and Kayo. The group's only other US chart hit (it reached number 29), "Crazy" came with a video that saw the boys send up Janet Jackson, Bobby Brown, Madonna, Milli Vanilli, Michael Jackson and George Michael, which probably accounted for it doing as well as it did in Australia.




"Sensitivity" by Ralph Tresvant
Peak: number 62
Speaking of New Edition, here's the final member of the group to reach the Australia top 100 - and the only one never to land a top 20 hit in Australia (if you ignore his one-line "contribution" to "The Best Things In Life Are Free"). Ralph Tresvant had actually been the lead singer of New Edition, so while Bobby Brown worked with LA Reid & Babyface, it made sense for Ralph to team up with the other main songwriting/production team in the US at this point: Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis. (Incidentally, fellow New Edition member Johnny Gill worked with both duos on his self-titled 1990 album.) The title of Ralph's debut solo single, "Sensitivity", said it all - the silky smooth US top 5 hit was the antithesis of the boastful swagger Bobby Brown displayed on tracks like "My Prerogative" and "Humpin' Around", which is maybe why it went under the radar in Australia.




"My Side Of The Bed" by Susanna Hoffs
Peak: number 54
Now if any former lead singer was going to have a successful solo career, you would've thought it would be The Bangles' Susanna Hoffs. I know, I know, she wasn't actually the lead singer of the girl band, since all four members shared vocal duties. But c'mon, that's the way she was perceived by the public - a view that arguably had been pushed by the record company, which led to tension in the group and their inevitable split. 
For her debut solo single, Susanna even enlisted Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, the writers of "Eternal Flame", and together they wrote "My Side Of The Bed", but the song was a resounding flop. And just like that, Susanna's solo career was effectively over before it even began, which is a shame because the subsequent two singles from her album, When You're A Boy (one of which we'll see in coming months), were far superior and may just have been hits if either had been chosen as lead single instead.




New Entries
Number 50 "More Than Words Can Say" by Alias
Peak: number 30 
This week's actual top 50 entries are much less exciting than the songs that missed the chart. Ready for some big boring ballads? How about this debut single from the band formed by two former members of Canada's Sheriff and a few guys who used to be in Heart? A lighters-in-the-air soft rock power ballad, "More Than Words Can Say" came about because Sheriff's 1983 single "When I'm With You" became a belated number 1 hit in the US in 1989 - but the band had long since broken up. Unable to resurrect Sheriff to capitalise on their new-found success, singer Freddy Curci and guitarist Steve DeMarchi formed Alias and almost topped the Billboard Hot 100 again. I've actually warmed to "More Than Words Can Say" a little over the years, although it's still about as predictable a power ballad as you could ever hope for.




Number 49 "A Better Love" by Londonbeat
Peak: number 25
The only one of this week's top 50 entries I actually like, "A Better Love" was Londonbeat's follow-up to chart-topper "I've Been Thinking About You", which was still in the top 5 this week. Another radio-friendly pop/dance track, "A Better Love" featured a reference to a "harbour bridge" in the lyrics, which always made me wonder if it referred to Sydney. The band wasn't from Australia, but you never know.




Number 47 "Never Let Me Go" by The Black Sorrows
Peak: number 30
The Black Sorrows maintained the one on, one off top 50 strike rate that extended back to "The Crack Up" with "Never Let Me Go" improving on the fortunes of previous single "Angel Street". Featuring the band's regular backing singer Vika Bull on lead vocal, "Never Let Me Go" was easily the best thing The Black Sorrows had released since "Chained To The Wheel" and I can only wonder why it took so long for it to be issued as a single. 




Number 46 "Rosalie" by The Slow Club
Peak: number 46
Not quite a ballad, but a cruisy pop/rock tune that would've been the perfect addition to FM playlists, "Rosalie" was the follow-up to the Melbourne band's debut chart hit, "Shout Me Down". As pretty as it was, "Rosalie" was also rather forgettable and didn't advance any further than this position - and that was the last we ever heard of The Slow Club on the top 100.




Number 34 "Hold Me In Your Arms" by Southern Sons
Peak: number 9
This week's highest new entry was another fully fledged ballad, from a band who were on a bit of a roll at this point. Following "Heart In Danger" and previous weep-fest "Always And Ever" into the chart, "Hold Me In Your Arms" returned Southern Sons to the top 10, solidifying them as Australia's favourite new pop/rock act. A third hit also helped the band's self-titled debut album, which had peaked at number 15 upon release in December, jump to a new high of number 14 this week on its way to an eventual top 5 placing. Things wouldn't be as good on the charts for Southern Songs again for a couple of years.




Next week: yet another megamix hits the top 50, along with the song that won the MTV Video Of The Year award for its film clip. Meanwhile, some music legends don't do so well with their latest efforts.


Back to: Mar 17, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 31, 1991


Wednesday, 23 March 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: March 23, 1986

In between my 25 Years Ago... and 30 Years Ago... posts, we've seen songs like "Sounds Of Then (This Is Australia)" and "Throw Your Arms Around Me" that you would've thought were bigger hits given how iconic they've become. Well, at least they were hits at all.

"Stairway To Heaven" finally became a chart hit in 1986

Thirty years ago this week, a song that is generally regarded as a rock classic in its original form reached the ARIA top 50 for the first time... but only because someone else covered it. Since the original recording has never been released as a single, it hasn't been a chart hit. The remake (from a band put together by the man behind Boney M and Milli Vanilli) changed all that.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 23, 1986

A song that was subsequently covered by Boyzone in 1999 was at number 1 in Australia this week in 1986. Billy Ocean stayed on top for a second week with "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going".


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Empty Rooms" by Gary Moore
Peak: number 100
The first proper solo single (after duet "Out In The Fields") for the ex-Thin Lizzy guitarist made little impression, but some big singles would follow in 1987 and 1990.

Number 97 "Life's What You Make It" by Talk Talk
Peak: number 70
The third and final top 100 entry for the British band whose "It's My Life" (number 73 in 1984) was later covered by No Doubt. Their biggest hit was "Talk Talk" (number 33 in 1982).

Number 89 "Beat The System" by Petra
Peak: number 84
A debut top 100 appearance for Christian rockers Petra - with a music video that's so '80s it hurts. The accompanying album of the same name featured a cover of "God Gave Rock And Roll To You".


New Entries
Number 43 "Death Defying" by Hoodoo Gurus
Peak: number 43
After two straight top 20 hits, Hoodoo Gurus' chart fortunes took a dive with this more laidback single from Mars Needs Guitars!, which had racked up 32 weeks on the albums chart by this point. The band flew to the Northern Territory to shoot footage for the music video at Kakadu National Park. Ooh-wee!




Number 38 "Stairway To Heaven" by Far Corporation
Peak: number 23
Led Zeppelin's "Stairway To Heaven" is a rock classic - no two ways about it. Not bad for an album track that was never released as a single and therefore never able to become a chart hit. The eight-minute epic was included on Led Zeppelin IV in 1971 and would only become eligible for singles charts around the world once digital downloads began to be counted in the late '00s. In Australia, it's still to register on the ARIA top 100.
In 1986, 15 years after the original version was released, British group Far Corporation released their own take on the song, resulting in a UK top 10 hit and the first Australian chart appearance for "Stairway To Heaven". Masterminded by Frank Farrian, the brain behind late '70s chart dominators Boney M and future Grammy Award recipients Milli Vanilli, Far Corporation gave the song a very '80s spin - all synths and gospel choir. Included in Far Corporation's line-up was ex-Toto singer Bobby Kimball, who'd been sacked by his former band following their hit-laden Toto IV album.




Number 37 "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" by Mike + The Mechanics
Peak: number 23
Peter Gabriel had scored a top 30 hit with "Shock The Monkey" and would soon have even bigger singles on his hands, while Phil Collins had released hit after hit in recent years, so why shouldn't Mike Rutherford also have some chart action away from Genesis? Well, he'd tried. After crashing and burning with two solo albums in the early '80s, Mike's time came with the band he'd put together as a side project from Genesis. 
Called Mike + The Mechanics, the band comprised Mike on guitars, Adrian Lee on keyboards, Peter Van Hooke on drums and two singers named Paul: Paul Young (no, not that Paul Young) and Paul Carrack. Debut single "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" featured vocals by the latter and got its subtitle from the little-known film On Dangerous Ground, in which it featured but was not written about. Instead, the lyrics of the song played out in the music video, for which there was a full-length version released as well.




Number 33 "Harlem Shuffle" by The Rolling Stones
Peak: number 6
Next up, the first of two new entries from each of the singers behind 1985's charity single "Dancing In The Street"After a period of solo work, Mick Jagger was theoretically back with The Rolling Stones for their 18th (or 20th, if you lived in the US) studio set, Dirty Work - but the frontman's involvement in the album was reduced on account of those other projects, leading to increased tensions between him and guitarist Keith Richards. 
Despite the behind-the-scenes turmoil, the Stones landed their 24th top 10 hit in Australia with the lead single from Dirty Work. Originally released in 1963 by soul duo Bob & Earl (which was later sampled by House Of Pain), the band's remake of "Harlem Shuffle" was their biggest hit since 1981's chart-topper, "Start Me Up". As it turned out, it would be their final single to reach the top 10 locally. Fun fact: the music video for "Harlem Shuffle" featured animation directed by the future creator of The Ren & Stimpy Show, John Kricfalusi. 




Number 9 "Absolute Beginners" by David Bowie
Peak: number 5
Coincidentally, Mick Jagger's duet partner on "Dancing In The Street" also debuted on the ARIA chart this week in 1986 with his latest - and what would be his final - top 10 hit. In David Bowie's case, his top 10 tally came to a more modest eight singles, and "Absolute Beginners" marked the first time two of those had been consecutive. The theme tune to the movie of the same name (which was based on the book of the same name), "Absolutely Beginners" was actually recorded immediately before the session for "Dancing In The Street" took place but, as you'd expect, had its release held back until the movie was in cinemas. David also appeared in the film, which was a resounding flop - a situation that would be repeated with another movie project before the year was out.




Next week: the song that would end up as the year's biggest single debuted on the chart, along with the second hit for a two-hit wonder and the latest from Australia's biggest music export.


Back to: Mar 16, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 30, 1986


Thursday, 17 March 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: March 17, 1991

Sometimes it can take a while for a song to catch on and become a hit - and often the delayed attention can be down to the track's use in an ad, on a TV show or in a film. None of that is out of the ordinary. But, something happened on the ARIA singles chart 25 years ago this week that was pretty unusual.

Chris and Helena's beachside romp helped "Wicked Game" become a hit

Two of the week's new entries were songs that owed their belated success to separate projects created by director David Lynch. One was a track that was used as the theme to his cult TV series Twin Peaks, while the other had featured in his film Wild At Heart. As we'll discover, that wasn't the only link between the two singles.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 17, 1991

Another song with a TV link moved into the number 1 position this week in 1991. "Do The Bartman" by The Simpsons pushed Londonbeat out of the way to enjoy a week on top of the chart.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "B.B.D. (I Thought It Was Me)?" by Bell Biv DeVoe
Peak: number 100
While it had been a travesty that "Poison" and "Do Me!" missed the top 50, this third single from the former New Edition members was nowhere near as good and didn't deserve much better.

Number 90 "Down With The Ship (Slight Return)" by Scatterbrain
Peak: number 90
At least "Don't Call Me Dude" had been (mildly) amusing. Thankfully, the joke was over for thrashy rock band Scatterbrain, with this follow-up making a short visit to the top 100.


Breaker
"Bleeding With The Times" by The Angels
Peak: number 54
After the number 77 peak of "Rhythm Rude Girl", it was an optimistic move to lift a fifth single from Beyond Salvation. "Bleeding With The Times" actually improved on its predecessor but still fell short of the top 50 - something The Angels must've been used to by this point. This marked the fifth time they'd had a track stall in the 50s, and became their 13th top 50 miss (as opposed to 18 top 50 hits) since 1976. The band would add a 14th flop to the list before the year was out.




New Entries
Number 50 "Cry For Help" by Rick Astley
Peak: number 13
He'd tested the water by releasing some of his own compositions as singles from second album Hold Me In Your Arms, including the title track and top 20 hit "She Wants To Dance With Me". Now, Rick Astley completely shrugged off the shackles of the Hit Factory on his rather pointedly titled third album, Free, with not a Stock Aitken Waterman production in sight. Co-written by Rob Fisher (of Naked Eyes and Climie Fisher fame), the gospel-tinged "Cry For Help" came with a video that reinforced the fact that this was a new Rick Astley - all long flowing locks and live band accompaniment. The result? A US and UK top 10 single, and in Australia, "Cry For Help" was his biggest hit since "When I Fall In Love / My Arms Keep Missing You".




Number 49 "Shelter Me" by Cinderella
Peak: number 48
Despite Australia's love for Bon Jovi and Poison, and to a lesser extent, Mötley Crüe and Warrant, our appetite for American hair metal had never extended to Cinderella - possibly because their two big Billboard hits, "Nobody's Fool" and "Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)" had been power ballads and those didn't work quite as well locally. For whatever reason, this lead single from Cinderella's third album, Heartbreak Station, did (just) make the top 50, although by this point, the band had shifted gears and "Shelter Me" boasted more of a blues-influenced sound. It'd be their only ARIA top 100 entry.




Number 41 "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak
Peak: number 15
Here's our first artist who had David Lynch to thank for his success. Chris Isaak had released three albums to little fanfare until this track from 1989's Heart Shaped World exploded following its use (well, an instrumental version of it) in the 1990 Lynch film "Wild At Heart". The cult director had been a fan for a while, also including two of Chris's songs in earlier movie Blue Velvet, but "Wicked Game" caught on in a way those previous tracks had not - no doubt helped significantly by the new music video directed by Herb Ritts that featured Chris and model Helena Christensen getting busy on Hawaiian beach. The sexy clip went into high rotation, the song charged up charts around the world and Chris has never looked back, enjoying a long and successful career in the decades since. He's also done the occasional bit of acting, appearing in the film spin-off of David Lynch's TV masterpiece...




Number 12 "Falling" by Julee Cruise
Peak: number 1
Like "Wicked Game", "Falling" had originally been released in 1989 - on Julee Cruise's debut album, Floating Into The Night. This track had an ever greater link with David Lynch, who wrote the lyrics to the song while Angelo Badalamenti provided the music (as they did for the entire album). An instrumental version of "Falling" was used as the theme to Lynch's TV series Twin Peaks, which by this point had Australia hooked, with the big reveal of who killed Laura Palmer coming in May 1991 (some six months after it had aired in the US). Julee, who'd appeared in the show to perform the ethereal track, ended up going all the way to number 1 in Australia with "Falling", but her success, like that of the show, was short-lived and she never returned to the top 50.




Next week: it's ballad o'clock with a batch of new entries that are liable to put you to sleep. I'll make every effort not to bore you, though!


Back to: Mar 10, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 24, 1991


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

30 Years Ago This Week: March 16, 1986

What is it with actors thinking they can also be pop stars? (Of course, the same can be said of singers thinking they can act, but let's leave that for another post). In the '80s, a rash of leading men released singles - including big names like Don Johnson, Patrick Swayze and Bruce Willis, as well as soap stars like Michael Damian and Jack Wagner.

Eddie looks like he's pretty ready to party himself

This week in 1986, arguably the world's top comic actor at the time debuted on the ARIA singles chart with his first foray into serious pop music - as opposed to the comedy records he'd released earlier in the decade. The biggest shock of all? The song was actually good.

ARIA Top 50 Singles and Albums Chart - week ending March 16, 1986

Meanwhile, after just one week at number 1, Dionne Warwick & Friends made way for Billy Ocean's "When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Get Going", which ascended to the top for a six-week stay.


Off The Chart
Number 100 "Roses" by Haywoode
Peak: number 73
Charting for one week before re-entering in May was this slice of pop/funk from the British singer who also worked with Stock Aitken Waterman on a couple of singles, including one later covered by Kylie Minogue.

Number 97 "Shake Your Foundations" by AC/DC
Peak: number 97
The third and final single from Fly On The Wall would also be included (in remixed form) on the upcoming Who Made Who album, which also contained the song that'd finally give AC/DC another hit.

Number 96 "Spring Rain" by The Go-Betweens
Peak: number 92
Eight years after their debut single, indie faves The Go-Betweens finally cracked the Australian top 100 with this first single from Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express.


Breakers
"Tantalized" by The Church
Peak: number 62
Like The Go-Betweens, The Church were another popular Aussie indie band, albeit one that'd experienced significantly more chart success up until this point. But, it'd been four years since their last mainstream hit and "Tantalized" became their latest single to undeservedly miss the top 50.




"It's Only Love" by Bryan Adams / Tina Turner
Peak: number 57
It was lifted from Bryan Adams' Reckless album, but rock duet "It's Only Love" came with a music video featuring footage from Tina Turner's Private Dancer tour. Bryan had popped up at one of Tina's shows in Birmingham, UK to perform the duet - and the occasion was capture for posterity (and home video release). The concert recording didn't sound that different from the studio version, which had a raw, live feel to it already - and I can't say that it's one of my favourite tracks from either artist. The novelty of the duet was enough to help "It's Only Love" out-perform Bryan's previous single, "One Night Love Affair", but not enough for it to dent the top 50 - not that surprising given Reckless had already spent 45 weeks on the albums top 50. The song was, however, a number 15 hit in the US. 




New Entries
Number 50 "It's Alright (Baby's Coming Back)" by Eurythmics
Peak: number 32
As the fourth and final single from the already chart-topping Be Yourself Tonight album, "It's Alright (Baby's Coming Back)" was never going to be massive, but the understated synthpop song ended up as Eurythmics worst-performing top 50 single since their 1983 breakthrough with "Love Is A Stranger". In fact, assuming "Julia" was never released in Australia, "It's Alright..." was their first release in all that time to miss the ARIA top 20 - and would remain their career low-point until beaten by "Shame" in early 1988.




Number 48 "How Will I Know" by Whitney Houston
Peak: number 2
The momentum had been building, and after a run of ever-improving chart positions (including for an early release of this song), "How Will I Know" became the track to finally turn Whitney Houston into a major star in Australia. A far cry from seductive ballads "You Give Good Love" and "Saving All My Love For You" (which bounced back up the top 50 this week), the joyous pop of "How Will I Know" was hard not to like. 
The track was composed by George Merrill and Shannon Rubicam (aka Boy Meets Girl), the songwriting (and romantic) partnership who'd also provide another of Whitney's big '80s hits, "I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)". "How Will I Know" had been intended for Janet Jackson, who turned it down, feeling it was too lightweight for her - but the frothy pop concoction was just what was needed on Whitney's ballad-heavy debut album. Add some magic from producer Narada Michael Walden (who did enough to warrant a co-writing credit), and the song became Whitney's second US number 1 and almost reached the top here.




Number 47 "Say Goodbye" by Hunters & Collectors
Peak: number 24
Here's another act that was - on a slightly lesser scale - just hitting its stride. After placing two singles in the 50s in 1982, Melbourne's Hunters & Collectors had a string of chart misses, including the original 1984 release of "Throw Your Arms Around Me". This lead single from the Human Frailty album changed all that, with the aggressive-sounding rock song about a fight between a couple working its way up into the top 30 and remaining their highest-charting effort for the next three years.




Number 46 "Sanctify Yourself" by Simple Minds
Peak: number 46
By contrast, next up we have a band facing a downturn in their fortunes as this second single from Once Upon A Time became the first of two consecutive number 46 hits for Simple Minds. As with Hunters & Collectors, it would take until 1989 for the Scottish band to do better than this.




Number 45 "Ride The Night Away" by Jimmy Barnes
Peak: number 39
Bad news also for Jimmy Barnes - after two back-to-back top 10 hits, the latest release from For The Working Class Man bombed out at the lower end of the top 40. Co-written by E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt, "Ride The Night Away" no doubt suffered due to its parent album being one of only three releases to sell enough copies in the previous 10 months to dislodge Dire Straits' Brothers In Arms from number 1. It also wasn't one of Jimmy's best singles, with the "Riiiiiiiide" in the chorus constituting everything I didn't like about his vocal delivery.




Number 38 "Sara" by Starship
Peak: number 10
After that raucous rock anthem, let's cleanse our palates with a smooth mid-'80s power ballad courtesy of recent chart-toppers Starship. Another number 1 single (following "We Built This City") for the recently revamped band in the US, they had to make do with a top 10 placing in Australia. "Sara" was written by another husband-and-wife team, Peter and Ina Wolf, and named after the real-life spouse of Starship singer Mickey Thomas. In the music video, he appeared alongside Rebecca De Mornay, who'd starred in a a progression of flop films since 1983's Risky Business




Number 34 "Party All The Time" by Eddie Murphy
Peak: number 21
He'd released two albums already - and even won a Grammy - but in 1985 the star of Beverly Hills Cop, 48 Hrs and Trading Places went from putting out comedy records to selling himself as a fully fledged pop star. And the public bought it... for a short while. Eddie's debut pop single (as opposed to his previous single release) went to number 2 in the US and almost made the top 20 in Australia. 
On "Party All The Time", Eddie had a little help from Rick "Superfreak" James, who co-wrote and produced the track. The funk performer's involvement was made very clear, with Rick featuring prominently in the recording studio-set film clip - a video concept that also served to reposition Eddie, because nothing says "I'm a serious artist" more than showing yourself making your music instead of clowning around. Eddie's top 50 success in Australia was short-lived, but he managed another hit in the US in 1989 with the elegantly phrased "Put Your Mouth On Me"




Next week: two performers that released a duet together in 1985 debut with new singles, plus the first chart appearance by one of the best-known songs of all time (but not by the original artist) and another member of Genesis hits the chart away from the band.


Back to: Mar 9, 1986 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 23, 1986


Thursday, 10 March 2016

25 Years Ago This Week: March 10, 1991

After last week's clear out on the ARIA singles chart, you might have expected things to be a bit quieter 25 years ago this week. Wrong - the flood of new entries continued with another six debuts in the top 50 this week in 1991.

Four new entries headed straight for the top 10

The newcomers were all big hits as well, with four of them reaching the top 10 and one going all the way to number 1. The chart-topper came as no surprise since the band responsible had already been to number 1 twice in as many years.

ARIA Top 50 Singles Chart - week ending March 10, 1991

The number 1 song this week in 1991 was, once again, "I've Been Thinking About You" by Londonbeat, which spent its fourth week on top. But, a certain cartoon character was edging ever closer to the chart summit.


Off The Chart
Number 99 "Hard To Handle" by The Black Crowes
Peak: number 79
A slight improvement on the peak of their debut single, this cover of the Otis Redding single from 1968 only ended up as a US and UK top 40 hit after being re-released later in 1991.

Number 83 "Bat Out Of Hell" by Meat Loaf
Peak: number 79
Re-released to coincide with Bat Out Of Hell: Revamped, a new version of the 1977 album that remains one of the highest selling releases in Australian history. The single originally peaked at number 26.


Single Of The Week
"Walking On A Wire" by Lowen & Navarro
Peak: number 131
They'd started their music career together as songwriters, responsible for penning "We Belong", which Pat Benatar turned into a hit in 1984. A few years later, Eric Lowen and Dan (cousin of Dave) Navarro decided to step into the spotlight themselves, but there were few takers (here or in the US) for this title track from their debut album. Undeterred, the duo continued to record and perform together until 2009, by which point Eric's ALS proved too great an impediment to carry on. He passed away in 2012.




New Entries
Number 48 "Unbelievable" by EMF
Peak: number 8
With the odd exception, Australia had been mostly immune to the fusion of dance and indie rock peddled by bands like Happy Mondays, The Charlatans and The Farm. Resistance was futile when it came to this debut single by the band whose name either stands for Epson Mad Funkers or Ecstasy Mother Fuckers - or both. Featuring various vocal samples - Andrew Dice Clay, Ya Kid K, someone screaming "what the fuck was that?" - as well as crunching guitars and an insistent keyboard hook, "Unbelievable" became a massive worldwide hit for EMF, reaching the ARIA and UK top 10, and number 1 in the US. As we'll see in coming months, follow-up hits were hard to come by, despite debut album Schubert Dip being packed with catchy genre-blending tracks.




Number 40 "Joyride" by Roxette
Peak: number 1
It only took one line: "Hello, you fool, I love you". And just like that, Roxette lodged themselves firmly back in our heads with another unshakable earworm. "Joyride" was the title track from the Swedish duo's follow-up album to international breakthrough Look Sharp! and became their third - and final - number 1 single in Australia. It also only took one listen to the song for it to be quite obvious that "Joyride" was somewhat of an homage to "Magical Mystery Tour" by The Beatles, with Per Gessle getting the title from the word used by Paul McCartney to describe the songwriting process with John Lennon.




Number 33 "Crazy" by Seal
Peak: number 9
He'd already topped the UK chart as featured vocalist on Adamski's "Killer", but Australia had never heard of the singer with the uncommon name of Seal when he dropped this debut solo single. Seal was signed to ZTT in the UK and "Crazy" was produced by label co-founder Trevor Horn, the man responsible for records by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, ABC and Grace Jones, who gave the song a similarly epic sound. Taken from the first of many self-titled albums, "Crazy" would be Seal's only major hit in Australia until 1995, but like "Killer", many of his other singles deserve wider recognition.




Number 31 "Rescue Me" by Madonna
Peak: number 15
It was inevitable that the other new song on The Immaculate Collection would be released as a single, but "Rescue Me" came out with minimal fanfare and no music video, so the fact that it still reached number 15 (especially given how well The Immaculate Collection had done over the summer) speaks volumes about Madonna's ability to sell records in the early '90s. Like "Vogue", "Rescue Me" was another half-sung, half-spoken collaboration with producer Shep Pettibone - and while it was nowhere near as good as that career landmark, I liked it a lot better than previous single "Justify My Love". Pity it's all but been forgotten about in the decades since.




Number 30 "Mary Had A Little Boy" by Snap!
Peak: number 18
After the non-event that had been "Cult Of Snap", Snap! returned with their poppiest single to date - all piano house chords and nursery rhyme lyrics. Simplistic it might have been, but "Mary Had A Little Boy" did the job and returned the German dance act to the top 20, and was actually my favourite of the four singles released from World Power. What would Snap! do next? Well, the same as Technotronic, Black Box, Bobby Brown and Paula Abdul, obviously...




Number 26 "Better" by The Screaming Jets
Peak: number 4
As accepting as Australia had become of pop, dance, rap and R&B by the early '90s, there was still nothing that went down better (no pun intended) with local audiences than a serving of pub rock. After breaching the top 100 with debut single "C'mon", Newcastle's The Screaming Jets exploded with "Better", a song even I didn't mind thanks to its catchy chorus. Loud, wild and in your face - and that was just singer Dave Gleeson's hair - the band quickly earnt a reputation as Australia's hottest new rock act and became a chart staple over the next few years, although never bettering (again, no pun intended) this top 5 hit.




Next week: the year's weirdest TV series spawns a chart-topping single, plus the debut of a singer who'd go on to star in that show's spin-off movie. And, a former star of the Hit Factory returns.


Back to: Mar 3, 1991 <<<<<<<<<<<<<  GO  >>>>>>>>>>>>> Forward to: Mar 17, 1991